National Academies Press: OpenBook

Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62 (1993)

Chapter: CORNELL, 1932-47

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Suggested Citation:"CORNELL, 1932-47." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
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Page 172
Suggested Citation:"CORNELL, 1932-47." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
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Page 173
Suggested Citation:"CORNELL, 1932-47." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
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Page 174

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JACOB FURTH 172 CORNELL, 1932-47 When Opie assumed chairmanship of the Department of Pathology at Cornell Medical College in New York in 1932, Jacob joined him as assistant professor of pathology. Acquainted with New York through his prior two years at the Rockefeller Institute, Jacob found the atmosphere exhilarating. Angevine, his colleague and sometime collaborator at Cornell, has succinctly described this period: The days spent at Cornell were among the happiest of J.F.'s career. The conditions and environment were ideal for investigation with fine, well- equipped laboratories, space for animals, a loyal and efficient technical staff, and adequate financial support.2 Angevine goes on, Initially, when full time was available for the studies on leukemia, [Jacob] was like a human dynamo, working so continuously and relentlessly that although he frequently appeared fatigued, his pace seldom slackened. He seemed to thrive in the midst of the restless activity and ferment of New York City, which served as a catalyst for his boundless energy. His enthusiastic approach to every problem attracted bright young men to his laboratory, most of whom worked hard and completed an arbeit. He was also strongly convinced of the value of student participation in research; perhaps this stemmed from his own experience as a student. Jacob's fifteen years at Cornell were very productive. With Cole and Boon in the early forties he demonstrated important genetic factors in the heritability of leukemia in mice, and in cross-breeding experiments they showed that in some instances the influences of the low leukemia strain predominated, whereas in others the high leukemia strain predominated. He (and others) also showed that heritability was not due to a maternal "milk factor," as it was with high and low mammary tumor strains.

JACOB FURTH 173 A role of the thymus in leukemia was shown by work with McEndy and Boon. In the high leukemia AK strain, removal of the thymus, a primary site in this strain, lowered the incidence from 78 to 11 percent. Removal of the spleen had no effect, and the effect of thymectomy was not inherited, since the offspring of thymectomized mice had the same high incidence as the high leukemia grandparent. Thymectomy also lowered the incidence of methylcholanthrene-induced leukemia but had no effect on the growth of grafted leukemic cells, which grow equally in high and low leukemic mice. During his period at Cornell Jacob received support not only from the Mallinkrodt Fund but also from the Lady Tata Memorial Trust, the International Cancer Research Foundation, the Jane Coffin Childs Fund, and the Anna Fuller Fund. Although research remained his foremost interest, Jacob enthusiastically entered into the other elements of the academic triad, teaching and service. Also in his mind was the tenuous nature of full-time research, particularly at that time. He was in a pathology department and felt he had to become a "compleat" pathologist. He took a minisabbatical to Vienna to learn anatomical pathology from Masters. One of Jacob's major responsibilities was teaching experimental pathology, then a requirement for medical students, who had the choice of spending two semesters on an investigative study proposed by either the staff or the student. He derived much satisfaction in having indoctrinated future physicians in the methods and spirit of research and in some instances having encouraged students toward research careers. Additional wartime responsibilities as acting chairman of the department when Opie retired and other staff members left for wartime service drew

JACOB FURTH 174 him further away from research. He regretted this hiatus in his leukemia studies, causing loss in momentum to other investigators. Much of his most important work on viral causation of leukemia, such as genetic inheritance of the virus causing leukemia in AK mice, went unreported. Another important contribution inadequately reported during the pressure of wartime responsibilities were the effects of thymectomy in preventing viral expression and the use of thymus extracts to activate viral expression. This work, however, marked the beginning of a major career effort, to be described later, on the role of host factors in cancer development. As recognition came and he advanced to full professorship, Jacob became increasingly in demand as a consultant and as a member of committees dealing with the evaluation of research projects and policies for such agencies as the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Cancer Society. As a sometime member with him on such panels, the senior author of this biography saw firsthand how well Jacob performed in these roles. He was a superb adviser on these bodies—forthright in his opinions, backed always by adequate documentation; they were invariably the well-thought, considered, and eminently fair views of an erudite scientist well versed in biomedical science. These same qualities made for extremely effective service on editorial boards for a number of journals such as Blood, Cancer Research, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and others, to which he gave much time and effort. Jacob modestly attributed his productivity at Cornell to ... a good student body, associates and assistants. We reported on the individuality of various types of leukemia in mice; their transmission by a single cell; a method for preservation of living cells by slow freezing (with

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Biographic Memoirs: Volume 62 contains the biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Sciences and bibliographies of their published works. Each biographical essay was written by a member of the Academy familiar with the professional career of the deceased. For historical and bibliographical purposes, these volumes are worth returning to time and again.

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